LONDON – The Americans insisted for months they can contend for the Olympic title in men’s gymnastics.

Another night like this, and they won’t need to say a word. The color of their medals will do the talking for them.

While perennial gymnastics powerhouses China and Japan bobbled and wobbled their way through qualifying Saturday, the Americans proved they’ve got the big skills to back up their big hopes. They didn’t count a single fall, and their final score of 275.342 was almost three points ahead of resurgent Russia.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make it finish like that,” team captain Jonathan Horton said. “I was actually joking … earlier, ‘Can we just get the medals now?’ But we’ve got one more day to go, and we’re pumped about it.”

The team final is Monday. Since 1997, when scoring began starting anew in the final, only three first-day winners have failed to finish atop the podium at either the Olympics or world championships.

Surprising Britain, which has a full men’s team at the Olympics for the first time since 1992, was in third place, and Germany was fourth.

Japan, the heavy favorite coming in, was fifth after several uncharacteristic errors by three-time world champion Kohei Uchimura. Defending Olympic champion China, which has won the last five world titles, was sixth after a splat-filled day.

“We studied a lot about the American team already,” said Japanese Coach Yasunori Tachibana, who sent a scouting party to last month’s Olympic trials. “So we knew it was going to be pretty tough.”

ARCHERY: On the final arrow, the U.S. lost Olympic gold in men’s team archery.

No matter — the Americans were still thrilled to win the first U.S. medal at the London Games.

Italy topped the trio of Brady Ellison, Jacob Wukie and Jake Kaminski by one point for the team gold, while South Korea took the bronze.

“I wasn’t disappointed that we got a silver. I was, on the inside, very, very ecstatic that we became Olympic medalists,” Ellison said. “The more it’s around my neck, I mean, this thing has some weight to it. It sets in. We are Olympic medalists — and it doesn’t matter the color.”

CYCLING: Alexander Vinokourov sprung the first surprise of the London Games.

The 38-year-old Kazakh defeated the British “dream team” on his own, winning the gold medal in the men’s road race to crown the end of a 14-year career that saw him in the roles of both hero and villain.

Vinokourov, who served a two-year ban for blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France, said he will retire after Wednesday’s time trial.

He would not have been riding in London had he stuck to his decision to end his career last year, when he broke a femur during the Tour de France. His morale was so low he said he would not race again, but he changed his mind and returned for one more year.

“After so many crashes, returning to cycling was difficult, but I was still hoping for a good result,” Vinokourov said after outsprinting Rigoberto Uran of Colombia. “My family, my kids, my parents were behind me the whole time. I still have the metal plate in my hip, my femur, so it wasn’t easy. Today, a dream has come true.”

Vinokourov and Uran broke away from the leading group about 10 kilometers from the finish. Vinokourov accelerated outside Buckingham Palace with 300 meters to go to leave Uran in his wake.

Alexander Kristoff of Norway won a mass sprint to get the bronze, just ahead of American Taylor Phinney.

WOMEN’S SOCCER: The United States, Britain and Brazil qualified for the quarterfinals with victories Saturday.

The U.S. beat Colombia 3-0 on goals by Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd. Britain cruised past Cameroon 3-0, while Brazil needed a late goal to win 1-0 against New Zealand.

TENNIS: Ryan Harrison left the Olympics with a mangled racket as a souvenir. Donald Young departed with his losing streak intact. Christina McHale bid farewell after receiving a sympathetic hug from Michelle Obama.

It was a difficult day for first-time U.S. Olympians. Among the rookies, only John Isner managed a victory, beating Olivier Rochus of Belgium 7-6 (1), 6-4.

Harrison lost his cool and the match against Santiago Giraldo of Colombia, 7-5, 6-3. Young remained winless since February, losing to Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-4, 6-4.

McHale was beaten by former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 7-5.


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